Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Strain – season 1 – review

Director: various

First aired: 2014

Contains spoilers

Having pitched the idea for TV and being rejected, Guillermo del Toro worked with co-conspirator Chuck Hogan to develop the Strain trilogy of books (Volume 1 is reviewed here here). The series was successful and has now spawned the TV series they were originally denied.

For those who haven’t heard of the series it follows CDC agent Dr Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll), recovering alcoholic, estranged father and dedicated public servant. He is called out to an incident with a plane, where it stopped on the tarmac and went dead. Crew and passengers are silent. When they get aboard everyone appears dead but then four survivors are found. It turns out that this is the vanguard of a vampirism plague and the Master (physically Robert Maillet, Mortal Instruments, City of Bones, vocally Robin Atkin Downes) is in an ornate coffin within the hold.

David Bradley as Setrakian 
The plague spreads into New York, aided and abetted by multi-millionaire Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde, Supernatural: Dorabella) who has arranged for the internet and cellphone system to be brought down and for his influence in City Hall to impede any response. It is up to a fugitive Goodweather and old vampire hunter Setrakian (David Bradley) to try and stop the plague along with a rag-tag group of allies. Meanwhile other Master vampires are sending their creatures to try and end the plague as they see it as a breach of a millennia old truce.

Richard Sammel as Eichorst 
The series dips in and out of Setrakian’s past – as a Jewish prisoner in a concentration camp that was used by the master as his own private feeding ground, where the creature was allied with SS commandant Thomas Eichorst (Richard Sammel) – and the struggles of the primary characters, including Gus (Miguel Gómez), a homeboy whose struggles with the Strigoï both parallel to, and occasionally crossed with, the focal characters. Del Toro has ensured that this is no mere walk through the books, however. Whilst the core story remains the same, the events differ, new characters are added, some characters suffer different fates to their novel counterparts.

Stinger in action
The lore is nicely done. Referred to as Strigoï, they do reflect in mirrors but the reflection flickers and wobbles. Silver and sunlight will damage/kill the Strigoï as will beheading. The white blood will extend human life but the parasitic worms they carry in the blood are the source of the infection. The vampires have a hive mind connected to the Master, older Strigoï have lost their noses and all Strigoï quickly lose their body hair (and their reproductive organs if male). The big difference between these and your common vampire is the replacement of fangs with gigantic stinger that is propelled from their mouths to latch onto a victim and feed. This is, of course, very Blade 2 Reaper, though there is no splitting mandible.

more a rubber muppet...
Is all good… well, no... Whilst the effects around the standard Strigoï look brilliant and the Master seems excellently done when we just see a cloak and its hidden depths, the detailed Master looks a bit darn rubbish to tell the truth, more rubber Muppet than menacing evil overlord if the truth be told. That said, despite this I can live with this as the rest of the effects worked well. The story works, the changes leave us guessing to a degree (though I assume the same general direction is being travelled) and the antagonism between the Jewish vampire hunter and Nazi Strigoï worked really well.

Worth catching. 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


LoBo said...

Good that you liked it. I'm expecting season 1 soon in the mail. I look forward to see it.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Lobo, let me know what you think :)

LoBo said...

I will do.

LoBo said...

I completed viewing season 1 2 weeks ago. I liked it. I wasn't so impressed by the pilot episode, but i believe it got better after that. I liked it. I will continue to see this show.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Lobo, good to hear back from you. Most series take a few episodes to find their pace, I find. Glad you liked this one.